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  1. Can You Wear Two Base Layers?

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    Can you wear two base layers? - Sub Zero Factor 1 and All Active worn by a female hiker

    At first glance of the question, Can you wear two base layers? You immediately think yes you can but why would you want to? Most outdoors people are well versed in the principles of the layering system – base layer, insulating mid layer, protective outer layer – so why would you ignore this and just wear two base layers. The problem is that in certain situations this layering system can be impractical.

    BASE LAYERS FOR AEROBIC EXERCISE

    If you are going to take part in a high intensity aerobic exercise in winter such as rowing, it is unfeasible to wear lots of different clothing layers. For a start you are going to get warm very quickly as well as producing a lot of perspiration.  You are also going to need full range of movement which will be hampered with a traditional layering system. Plus there is also the problem of storing all these different clothes when removed.

    What a lot of professional rowing teams practice in winter is wearing two thermal base layers at the start of a days training programme. Without being restrictive, these thermal layers will keep you warm whilst also managing perspiration more efficiently. Once the warm up is complete, one of the base layers is removed and easily stored in the bottom of the boat. At the cool down, the discarded base layer can be worn again to reduce rapid cooling.

    Even in the coolness of early summer mornings a two layer base layer system is often used. Next to the skin will be worn a summer base layer to manage perspiration, with a thermal base layer as a second layer to provide extra warmth during the warm up.

    BASE LAYERS FOR SPRING AND AUTUMN WEATHER

    Out of the winter season, the need for a full thermal layering system is usually unnecessary. With the temperatures very rarely reaching freezing, you should be able to get away with just wearing your base layer. However, some early mornings and evenings may see temperatures drop low enough to require wearing extra layers for a boost in warmth. You could pack a thermal mid layer on the off chance, but it is a lot of unnecessary weight to carry.

    Instead, ensure you are carrying a second base layer – you should be carrying a spare set anyway if you are heading away from civilisation. They can easily be worn over your first base layer and are light enough to be stored in a small rucksack.

    BASE LAYERS FOR EXTREME COLD ENVIRONMENTS

    When it comes to very cold weather, such as found in the polar regions or the Himalayas, mountaineers and explorers will often wear more than one base layer as part of their layering system. The main reason for this is you can trap more air between thin layers than wearing bulky insulating layers. And trapping air is essential if you want to keep warm because air is the insulator, not the fabric.  It is not uncommon for mountaineers to wear two or even three base layers beneath their insulating mid layer.

    SO CAN YOU WEAR TWO BASE LAYERS?

    Instead of being a bit of a wacky question there are certain situations where wearing two base layers can actually be desirable. It is a lightweight alternative to heavier insulating mid layers and also offers greater flexibility in less demanding weather conditions. So the question shouldn’t be can you wear two base layers? but have you tried wearing two base layers?

  2. What Is Thermal Mid Layer Clothing?

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    Thermal mid layer worn by two cross country skiers in the Alps

    Most outdoors people understand what a base layer is and the function it performs in keeping you warm and dry. However, when it comes to a thermal mid layer there is still a lot of confusion about its purpose and what one exactly is.

    PURPOSE OF A THERMAL MID LAYER

    The primary role of a thermal mid layer is to add extra insulation to your layering system without being overly bulky. It is usually worn over your base layers but some garments, like our Factor 2 mid layer range, can also be worn directly next to the skin.

    Its secondary role is to carry on transporting moisture away from your skin via your base layer to the next layer of clothing. If your mid layer has poor wicking properties then you are going to get damp very quickly when working hard. This can lead to rapid heat loss when you slow down or stop.

    TYPES OF THERMAL MID LAYERS

    Personally i think a lot of companies wrongly label garments as thermal mid layers, such as micro fleece jackets and lightweight down jackets. For a start they are far too baggy to be true mid layers and are often poor at managing moisture. A lot of the time it is a clumsy attempt by a brands marketing team to adhere to the layering system – base layer, mid layer, outer layer – when their range is not complete or when their range is too large.

    Our classification of a mid layer is pretty simple. It should be snug fitting, offer good moisture management, and be insulating. Basically it is a thicker version of a base layer. When we were developing our  award winning Factor 2 mid layer range, we took these parameters and designed a bespoke fabric around them. Nearly three decades later our Factor 2 is still one of the best thermal mid layers you can buy.

    WHEN SHOULD A THERMAL MID LAYER BE WORN?

    Deciding if wearing a thermal mid layer is necessary is dependent on the weather conditions, the activity you are intending to perform, and ultimately your own personnel tolerance to the cold. If in doubt, always err on the side of caution, as you can always remove a layer.

    For a relatively sedentary activity such as fishing where little heat is generated from movement, you are going to want to wear as much insulation as you can to ensure you trap and retain body heat.

    On the other hand, if you are a proficient skier, then you are going to have an aerobic workout even in very cold temperatures, so overheating may be a problem wearing a full layering system. In this situation we would recommend wearing a base layer top and bottom with just a mid layer top to protect your core. If you find you are getting too warm then you can always remove a layer relatively easily.

    For extreme cold conditions, such as polar expeditions, then a good base layer and thermal mid layer are a necessity, and a re just the start of your layering system.

  3. How Tight Should Base Layers Be?

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    How tight should base layers be? - Sub Zero Factor 1 Plus base layer zip turtle top being worn correctly by a skier

     

    The two most common questions we get asked are how tight should base layers be? and what is the difference between base layers and compression layers? We will deal with the latter question in the next few weeks , but this post will hopefully enlighten you on the correct way to wear base layers.

    ARE BASE LAYERS SUPPOSED TO BE TIGHT?

    The simple answer is it depends on your definition of tight. To me, tight means restrictive and uncomfortable, which is obviously a hindrance and a distraction when performing an outdoor activity. It has entered the vocabulary of performance clothing as the dividing line between base layers and compression layers has become blurred by marketeers. We try and avoid using ‘tight’ altogether when talking to our customers, preferring a more softer wording such as ‘snug’.

    WHY NOT WEAR BAGGY BASE LAYERS?

    This is the other extreme. You may think you look cool with your bum hanging out your base layer leggings (obviously a matter of opinion) but they won’t keep you warm. Badly fitting thermals will lead to all sorts of problems such as heat loss, vastly reduced wicking rates (transportation of moisture), and possible skin sores from rubbing of excess material.

    HOW SHOULD BASE LAYERS FIT?

    Base layers need to be close fitting to prevent warm air trapped between your clothing from being wafted out during movement. A close fitting base layer will also be much more efficient at moisture management due to a higher fabric surface area being in close contact with your skin.

    When trying on a base layer you need to understand that the fabric has been designed to be stretchy so it will naturally adjust to most body shapes. What you should be looking for is the correct length in the arms (finishing just over the wrist) and the length of the body resting on the top of your bottom.

    A good way to check  if the base layer is too tight is to see if you can pinch any of the fabric and pull it away from your body. If this is difficult to do then you more than likely have a size too small. Another area to check is under the armpits. If you cannot get the full rolling movement of your arms and shoulders then you need to try the next size up.

    SO HOW TIGHT SHOULD BASE LAYERS BE?

    In answer to the original question, base layers should be snug fitting but not restrictive. Warm air needs to be trapped between fabric layers without the possibility of it being wafted out if you are to stay warm – the air is the insulator. At the same time, you don’t want the base layer to be so skin tight that it restricts movement or even blood flow.

    So my final piece of advice is if it feels too tight then it probably is.

  4. Thermal Clothing For Extreme Cold

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    Two arctic explorers in full Sub Zero thermal clothing for extreme cold weather

     

    Wearing the right layer of thermal clothing for extreme cold situations can be the difference between life and death if you get in trouble. Wear too much insulation and you will overheat, increasing your perspiration, that will rapidly cool your body when your intensity levels drop. Alternatively you may not be wearing enough thermal layers to start with. This can also lead to rapid heat loss unless remedied, forcing your body to shut down to protect its vital organs. As you can see, wearing the correct layers of thermal clothing for extreme cold environments should be taken very seriously.

    BASE LAYER

    Base layers are the first line of defence against the cold. Worn directly next to the skin, they need to be soft to prevent rubbing sores from carrying equipment, offer thermal resistance to trap heat, and be effective at transporting perspiration away from the body. They are one of the most important layers of thermal clothing for extreme cold environments.

    Our Sub Zero Factor 1 Plus base layers are made form super soft polyamide yarn that has lots of in-built stretch. This allows the base layer to fit the body snugly like a second skin. A water loving chemical is also impregnated in to the yarn during the dyeing process that actively transports moisture way from the skin to the outer layers. This keeps you dry and also speeds up the drying process when washed.

    MID LAYER

    Mid layers are very similar to base layers in that they should be worn close fitting, but they contain more fibres to trap warm air – insulation. They are effectively the work horse in your range of thermal clothing for extreme cold.

    Our Sub Zero Factor 2 thermal mid layers are heavily brushed on the inside fabric face to produce an inner fleece layer that insulates your body from excess heat loss. Their very strong flat seam construction helps prevent any pressure points occurring when carrying kit.

    OUTER LAYER

    Once you have your base layer and insulation mid layer sorted then your choice of outer layer is often determined by the elements.

    If you are working hard and still feel a little cool then putting on a lightweight down jacket will help to add extra insulation without adding much extra weight as a burden.

    If you are comfortably warm then you may not even need an outer layer at that point in time but you should keep a close eye on the weather and anticipate changes in conditions. Likewise, if you have to stop or your activity levels decrease then you will need to add further layers to compensate for the reduction in heat generation.

    One mistake that even the professionals sometimes get wrong is underestimating the power of wind chill on your bodies temperature. It may look lovely and sunny outside but any wind can rapidly cool the body. Carrying a lightweight windproof that can quickly be thrown over your under layers should mitigate a lot of the wind chill effects.

    For further information on wind chill visit the Met Office

    HATS & GLOVES

    It is a myth that you loose most of your body heat through your head, at most it is around 10%. Even though the percentage is a lot lower than most people think, it is a good way to fine tune your bodies temperature. If you start to get a bit warm, remove your fleece hat or balaclava. If you are still warm after a few more minutes of doing this then you know you need to remove a larger layer of clothing.

    This also works the other way around. Add a hat if you start to feel cool. If this dosen’t warm you up then you know that a larger item of clothing needs to be worn or that you need to start looking for shelter.

    The other reason for covering your head and hands is to help protect your extremities from wind burn and frost bite.

    THERMAL CLOTHING FOR EXTREME COLD

    Keeping warm and dry in extreme cold weather needn’t be too much of a problem if you listen to what your body is telling you , are aware of your surroundings, and are wearing the correct kit.

    Luckily Sub Zero have over 40 years experience manufacturing thermal clothing for extreme cold conditions, with many polar explorers and mountaineers placing their trust in our products.

  5. Best lightweight thermal underwear for Autumn weather

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    What is the best lightweight thermal underwear for changeable Autumn weather?

    Autumn can be an unpredictable month as one day it can be scorching hot whilst the next day you can get out of your tent and find ground frost. This swing in the weather cycle is not ideal if you are out on the hills for a  prolonged period of time as you have to pack for all eventualities. But how do you fine the best lightweight thermal underwear for the job? Researching the following four  properties when buying thermal underwear should help you get the best from your purchase.

    Insulation

    Best lightweight thermal underwear Sub Zero Factor 1 plusTo lighten your load it is a good idea to wear thermal underwear that will adapt to both hot and cold conditions. This is not  an endorsement for  thermal brands that claim they will keep you cool in summer and hot in winter. Anyone with a simple grasp of physics or textiles knows this is an impossibility. The best you can hope to achieve is a lightweight thermal  base layer that will insulate you in the cooler weather, but not be so insulating that you start to cook when the sun comes out.

    But how do you know how insulating/warm a thermal underwear brand is going to be? A simple but underused test is the TOG, which measures the thermal resistance of a fabric.  You have probably seen it used on duvets, mattresses and pillows, and the lower the figure, the less insulating it is. In the Autumn you need a lightweight thermal underwear brand that has a TOG rating of between 0.35-0.50. Anything higher and you are going to be too warm, anything lower and you will chill.

    Wicking Rates

    What this means is basically how quick perspiration is moved from the skins surface to the outside surface of the fabric, so it can evaporate or be moved on to the next clothing layer. The best lightweight thermal underwear garments will have a hydrophilic treatment applied to them. These chemicals actively aid the movement of moisture – hydrophilic means water loving – so vastly improve the fabrics own moisture transportation system. In the cooler Autumnal weather this process keeps a dry layer of air next to the skin (air being the insulator) helping you to keep warm. In warmer weather you will probably wear the lightweight thermal underwear on its own. A quick wicking rate will pump moisture out to the surface of the thermal and allow evaporation. This will help to cool you as water has a high heat capacity and needs a lot of energy to phase change i.e. transform from a  liquid to a gas.  In layman’s term, your excess body heat is absorbed by the water on the fabrics surface to change to a gas,  or evaporate as us mere mortals know the process.

    Construction and Fit

    Best lightweight thermal underwear needs good construction and fitThirdly, the lightweight thermal underwear must be snug fitting. By snug I do not mean restricting blood to an appendage so it goes purple with loss of circulation.  The base layer must be close fitting so no air can be wafted when you move. For someone who has not got the body of David Beckham this is not going to be a pretty sight as a good fitting thermal will contour to all your lumps and bumps. However, this close fit ensures that air is trapped next to the skin, insulating the wearer. It also aids hydrophilic treatments as they only work efficiently when there is a heat gradient. The best way to achieve this is by having the fabric in close contact to the skin.

    The best lightweight thermal underwear garments will also be constructed sympathetically to your activity. Look for thermal underwear that has a long body length so when you bend over to pick something up or tie your shoe laces your lower back does not become exposed. The sleeves should also be of a significant length that when you lift your arms they do not ride up and expose much your skin.

    Colour

    Finally, your choice in colour will also play an important part in how cool and hot you feel. Black is a good absorber of light wavelengths and will attract more energy from the sun than a lighter colour. However, black is also a good radiator of heat so in overcast weather it will loose heat quicker than a lighter colour. White is obviously the best colour for reflecting heat as it absorbs very little light. If you need thermal underwear in the autumn and are not sure on what weather conditions you are going to be subjected to then choose a colour between the extremes of white and black.

  6. Sub Zero Lightweight Thermal Down Jacket Wins Top Review

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    “Three hundred grammes. That’s the weight of my wallet and iPhone combined. The two things, along with my keys, that I carry everywhere, regardless of outfit, weather and circumstance. I don’t even feel them any more, such is their familiarity in my pockets, and it’s not like they weigh an awful lot.

    In fact, they weight exactly the same as the Sub Zero Thermal Down Jacket, which considering its size, must surely be filled with helium. It’s extraordinarily lightweight, and yet with a fill power of 800+ goose down it is extraordinarily warm too.

    Snuggly like a sleeping bag 

    I went for a walk this morning in a T-shirt and this jacket. The temperature is 7C and I was, at times, so warm in the jacket that I needed to take it off. It’s like a sleeping bag, trapping huge amounts of air inside its 3-4cm thick down chambers and closely-fitting the body to seal in all your body warmth. It doesn’t make sense that something so light could be so warm – the mind naturally equates weight with insulation – and yet it is.

    The external shell material is a 100% Polyamide and extremely thin. It feels like it would rip at the merest snag, but having worn it through a few woodlands it is much tougher than it looks. The only change to this material is the addition of a warm fleece material on the neck, which doesn’t rub or get sweaty and helps trap air from escaping upwards.

    The main zipper is a chunky YKK number with an effective chin guard and nice positive action. It has a wind-baffle behind it to seal out the breezes. The cuffs are elasticated, and the waist has a bungee drawstring to keep the wind from chilling you. You get two zippered hand pockets which are perfect for doubling the weight of things with your phone and wallet!

    It’s not sold as waterproof, but it has survived a couple of short-sharp showers admirably, which was a pleasant surprise. I suspect that this is due to the extremely dense nature of the shell fibre, rather than any treatment.

    The jacket lacks a hood, which keeps the weight down but means you’ll need to match it with a hat on the chilliest days. Sub Zero make a range of good hats, so that’s no bother.

    And lastly, as a hint on how the jacket could be used, Sub Zero supply it with a small drawstring bag so it can be stuffed down and carried in a pack until it’s needed when the weather gets cold.”

    5/5 Gear We Are – January 2012

    Click here for the full review

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